Independence, McPherson High and Topeka Hayden have occupied the top three spots in the Class 4A tennis poll all season.
So don’t be surprised if those teams take home the three plaques when the state tournament is contested Friday and Saturday in Pratt, though it could be quite interesting to see how the actual final order plays out.
Buhler and Abilene are the most likely teams to take a run at the Big 3, as the Crusaders got all six of their players through and Abilene four.
“The top three is possible for us. I really hope to stay true to that,” MHS coach Tyler Brown said. “But after seeing all the finishes, there will be some fun second-round matches and definitely some great quarterfinal matches across the board and if we come out good in those matches we will be looking good, but those will be the matches that decide things.”
Brown shook things up for last week’s regional in order to get all six of his players on to state.
As a result, Gallagher Martin and Nolan Schrader won the doubles title even though they entered the tournament without having played a match together this season. Whereas there are are teams that have played up to 34 matches, Martin and Schrader take a 4-0 record to Pratt.
MHS’ other doubles team of Luke Williams and Kento Aizawa (20-12) were third at the regional, and lost to Martin and Schrader in the semifinals.
In singles, the Bullpups’ Andrew Snell (18-10) was second last week and Kaden Stewart (8-4) was fourth after playing doubles much of the year.
There may not be much drama in singles. Tommy Hunter of Topeka Hayden is back to defend his championship and he’s 22-2 on the season. After that, though, the players to watch are regional champions Zach Schroeder of Independence (27-6), Gabe Johnson of Abilene (22-2) and Garrett Severud of Buhler (20-14).
“After Hunter in singles, I really feel second through 12th could really go many ways. It is just whoever is playing their best tennis that day,” Brown said.
Doubles, however, is a toss-up.
Other regional doubles winners were Josh Hilger and Sam Hilger of Independence (26-5), Justin Salisbury and Derek Weaver of Paola (22-2), and Evan Schmidt and Hank Goertzen of Buhler (26-8).
“Doubles could go either way from first to 12th as they all are pretty equal,” Brown said. “I know three of the doubles teams will be up for the No. 1 seed because of the indirect wins over each other. So who knows how that bracket will fall. I just hope we saved our best tennis of the year for state.”
Brown is hoping his team’s consistency can overcome the big points Hayden scores in singles with Hunter, as well as the Independence and Buhler teams in doubles.
Friday’s matches begin at 10:30 a.m., with Saturday’s semis and consolations starting at 9 a.m.